Following the presentation of the original Carcassonne last week, let’s continue the irregular series with the sole spin-off game I’ve bought thus far.
Carcassonne: The Castle is Reiner Knizia’s take on the concept, and while the basic mechanic is unaltered from the original, the courtyard-building game is quite a different beast.
While the original work with just two players, the experience is not as good as with three or four, as the resources dwindle too early in the set. The Castle has been constructed for two players, and two players only.
The playing field is limited to the castle walls, so the design cannot uncontrollably spiral out. The surrounding wall serves as the scoring track also, with tower crenellations bearing bonus tiles for the player whose meeple lands on the exact spots.
While the tile-laying/meeple-placing mechanic is carried over as-is from the basic Carcassonne, the tile-placement rules are far looser in this game. Only the roads have to match, the rest of the construction can be as chaotic as it gets. As with the King/Scout expansion to the basic Carcassonne game, the sizes of constructed elements matter – the owner of the biggest house gets to claim points for the unconstructed squares in the end. Unlike the original, in the Castle incomplete features do not bring in any points (unless a corresponding bonus tile has been previously obtained from the scoring track).
Knizia’s take of Carcassonne is a good variant, and works well as a two-player game. The interaction between players is as minimal as in the original, but the enforced tightness of the area does force the constructions to collide sooner or later. The fields remain important, but the game is usually not won over their control, as the criss-crossing paths bisect the courtyard into cleanly separate areas.
As the Boardgamegeek page notes, no expansions nor a digital version of the game exists. The game feels complete enough without the former, but a good Live Arcade game would be appreciated indeed.